Dallas, TX –
It appears a term is finding its way into the educational vocabulary and intellectual jargonize that I am not certain of its definition: College-Ready Student. This verbiage seems to have excellent marketing spin for policy makers and several local school districts are quickly embracing it to proclaim their graduates have been dutifully prepared for the college academic experience. Although this phrase is noble and salivating to local and state policy makers, I am not sure exactly what a College-Ready student looks like and what is in their academic suitcase.
Obviously, districts enjoy the insinuation of this nomenclature. It suggests they are due a hearty Well, done , whether or not their students attend college or not. Colleges would truly like to see all new enrollees College-Ready. The Texas Senate Education Committee has estimated the Non-College Ready student drains the collegiate economy close to $200 million per year. Isn't it time we request the legislature to consider promoting a singular K-12 state curriculum to promote a comprehensive Texas College-Readiness student? Or, does passing a TAKS make for a College-Ready Student? I don't think so.
The legislature consistently fails to understand that preparing students for a successful, productive collegiate experience should be equally geared toward developing creative, innovating problem solving skills as well as the manipulations of academic skills measured by the TAKS.
Just as important as the academic rudiments, is teaching the skill of how to network with individuals who possess knowledge we need. The true College-Ready student is one who knows they don't know, but does know how to access the knowledge or where to find the person who has it.
I am a public school teacher: a Special Education provider by choice. I am also a college instructor and a college student. From this unusual vantage point, coming to terms with what a College-Ready Student means is perplexing. As a doctoral candidate, I sometimes question if I am College-Ready. I still have to read, read, read, write long papers, and struggle with Inferential Statistics. I still seek tutoring. I still send my papers to the Writing Center to be proof-read and appreciate criticisms for improvement. If I was counting on my former schooling to have molded me into a College-Ready Student armed with a knowledge base on par with my professors to avoid the inconvenience of exploratory learning, they failed miserably.
If we, as a state, not a collection of independent school districts, are to collectively succeed with public education it is critical the citizenry begin to hold policy creators accountable for defining exactly what it is they want and forego the marketing spin. Until we demand identification what we want from our Texas public education system, in quantitative terminology, our educational processes can not but flounder. The grousing will continue because failing to define the exiting senior product means avoiding dealing with comprehensive educational policy. Educational policy is inherently vague, which is often convenient to those in the majority.
If the legislature, local school boards, and superintendents persist in their adventure to promote graduates as College-Ready, a good start might be to borrow a phrase from Special Education: "The Student Will..." , or better yet "The Student can ". It's easy to determine if the educational objective has been attained: either the student can or they can't - 'Show and Tell' in its simplest form. With this as the paradigm, there is neither confusing educational policy to decipher, nor any room for the policy pros to wiggle from the responsibility of their task.
Mel Hays is a North Texas-area teacher who lives in McKinney.
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